Happy International Women’s Day
Happy International Women’s Day

Empowering women – that’s an important part of our work at UMN as we seek to bring about fullness of life for people across the country. We recognise our work in that area especially today, 8 March 2019, on International Women’s Day. A day that celebrates the unique contribution women make to the world and inspires us to keep fighting for equality. We’ve got three inspiring stories about how our work is making a positive difference in the lives of women across Nepal.

Silent no more

Empowered to speak up for equality – that’s how Nisha Somai’s life changed after being a part of a UMN-supported adolescent group in Rupandehi District.

While she was a member of Milijuli Adolescent Girls’ Group, Nisha participated in group discussions about topics such as human trafficking, women and sexual violence, child abuse, secure foreign employment and adolescent empowerment. Nisha and 25 other young girls gained a better understanding of these issues and also felt compelled to share what they learnt. They also started teaching other members in their community. 
Due to this awareness, Nisha reported an incident of eve teasing to the adolescent group, women’s group and Tole Development Organisation. Because Nisha chose to speak up, the boy had to face the consequences of his actions. He had to pay a penalty of NPR 1000 (USD 9) and ask for forgiveness.

Wind of change

Speaking out against “period huts” for women. Restricted alcohol use. Less caste discrimination. These are some of the positive changes one community is experiencing after a UMN-supported project advocating for women’s rights began in Bajhang District.

Manju Joshi is a school teacher and an executive member of Mahila Kalyan Bachat Tatha Rin Sahakari Samstha Ltd. (MKS). Manju remembers that 10 years ago in Bajhang District the only places women were allowed to be were in the house and at the field to work. Since 2015, UMN and MKS have been implementing a project that focuses on advocacy for women’s rights. It’s called ‘Combating Traditional Practices which are Harmful to Women and Girls (HTP)’ and it calls together different members of the community, including children, youth, men and women.

Manju has been active since the group began. “People have started to think critically about social issues,” says Manju. She’s seen the impact it had on things like Chhaupadi, the practice of banishing women to small buildings during menstruation. “Earlier talking about Chhaupadi practice and the negative effects on health was like speaking against God, but now more than 60 women have left their Chau sheds.” One Chau shed was even destroyed. Manju has also seen alcohol use being restricted and caste discrimination reduced. “All these changes were made possible through the community group. It shows that people are part of the change process and empowerment.”

Housewife becomes leader in community

From a limited role as a housewife to a leader in her community – one woman’s life changed when she joined a UMN-supported self-help group in Kapilbastu District. 

42-year-old Radhika Chamar was limited to being a housewife in her family, but she was destined for more in life. UMN’s Strengthening Community Resilience through Livelihoods and Environment Improvement (SECURE) Project helped people in Radhika’s community form the Manakamana Self-Help Group. As Radhika belonged to a poor and marginalised family, she was selected as a member of the group. She was also elected as the chairperson. Although she was given the responsibility, she felt awkward to lead the group due to a lack of confidence regarding her roles and responsibilities.
After the group was formed, all the members including Radhika received different capacity building training. This included specific roles of members, child protection and gender empowerment, Do No Harm, saving and fund mobilisation and more. Her group also conducted the group capacity assessment and made action plans to move forward.
Radhika shared, “After receiving training, my confidence level increased. As a result, I can now lead my group without any hesitation.” She also plans to register her group in the Rural Municipality to get government resources to help develop her community.

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